Minutes, Truman Chapter of AAUP
April 25, 2008, 4:30 pm
Special meeting with President Barbara Dixon
Meetings are open to all university faculty members.
Faculty present: Betty McLane-Iles (presiding), President Barbara Dixon, and 14 more faculty members: Marc Becker, Janet Grow, Diane Johnson, Martha Bartter, Charles Frost, David Robinson, Lynn Rose, Todd Coulter, Peter Rolnick, Joan Mather, Julie Seidler, Judi Misale, Steve Reschly, Kathryn Brammall, Sylvia Macauley
This was a very free-wheeling discussion, but the secretary was able to record a loose version of some of the contributions.
1. Contingent faculty. Is there a standard university policy toward benefits of temporary faculty? All faculty at 80% are supposed to receive full benefits, but our chapter members have heard of stories of some full-time temporary faculty not receiving full benefits in the past couple of years.
Dixon: I would need specific examples to see what happened. Everybody (full-time) receives the same benefits, and Human Resources should be able to verify this.
Question: What happens when a temporary hire comes for half a year but then stays for a full year? AAUP recommends that contingent faculty be no more than 15% of faculty overall, and no more than 25% in any one department.
Rolnick: I want to open the issue of temps having higher teaching loads. Theater searches were canceled, and that certainly leaves faculty in that department feeling bitter.
Dixon: I do not really want to follow the national trend toward more and more temporary faculty, but neither do I want all departments entirely tenured in.
Mather: The problem with our (Theater) searches was that the rules changed midstream.
Reschly: Some searches for contingents have gone well, but others have been rough. We need a search handbook to standardize this process.
Brammall: The problem is that lack of imagination corrupts the spirit of the policy.
Dixon: We don’t need a policy permitting something if there is nothing that forbids it. It is important that we have clear personnel policies, something that a mature union committed to shared governance fosters.
Rolnick: We need more risk taking.
Brammall: It is problematic that our temps teach heavier loads.
Dixon: It is important to rethink the problem in terms of faculty load rather than simply teaching load.
2. Faculty salaries and sabbaticals. The state legislature is coming through with a 4.2% increase, and tuition raises 4.1% (but with utility increases this means that the university may net about 4.1%).
Dixon: We hope to do salary increases using reallocations. We need to reconsider how sabbaticals are funded: pegged at 2% of academic salaries, but that leaves it too much at the whim of budget whiplash. It would be better to institutionalize how sabbaticals are assigned, so that faculty can receive them on a more regular basis. Full-year at 80% also limits number of sabbaticals that can be awarded.
Rose: Before fixing the policy, we need to deal with the emergency backlog that we have right now. It would be unfair to cut the 80% to 50%, when so many have been made to wait.
Dixon: What are you willing to give up in order to make more sabbaticals happen?
Reschly: Rather than simply raising the percentage of the funding according to the current system, we need somehow to peg it to the percentage of eligible faculty. A large reason for reduced revenues for salaries and sabbaticals is the high level of tuition merit tuition-aid awards to Truman students, far beyond what our peer institutions provide: 94% of our students get funding.
Dixon: We find that donors are more likely to fund student-based needs than faculty-development-based needs.
Reschly: We need to connect faculty development to student development in our fundraising.
3. Faculty governance.
Dixon: Restructuring has gone pretty well during the first year. This was a change that had to be made. It was the right thing to do, but we still have a long way to go. The first year is always the hardest. There is always a learning curve, and going first is hardest because there is no previous chair to learn from. In a liberal arts university, is a faculty or college senate more appropriate?
Brammall & Johnson (who both serve on Faculty Senate): It is certainly a problem when curricular matters become initiatives before even consulting with faculty, as happened in the latest curriculum initiatives from the “deans’ group.”
Dixon: That was unfortunate, but it is also not a done deal.
Brammall: The memo that came out made it appear to be a done deal.
Misale: This episode demonstrates the importance of good communication.
Dixon: Faculty Senate is the important legislative body, but communication also comes through department chairs.
Johnson: It is important that faculty work (including governance) is respected and appreciated. Our work should not be bypassed.
Misale: I see the importance of large faculty forums, getting us to talk to each other.
Dixon: Is such faculty inter-communication the president’s responsibility?
Brammall: It can come from multiple points. Our problem now is that communication is often restricted to limited arenas. Senate is one important point of contact, but not the only point of contact.
Misale: I sometimes see these problems: people hiding information, the lack of transparency, and inconsistent policies.
Bartter: The university president can use her position to spearhead conversations across campus. For example, I am currently concerned about Americans with Disabilities (ADA) violations here.
Dixon: Our campus needs to begin to accept a different style of administration. I myself do not want to micromanage, as some of these suggestions would require me to do. More can and should be done at levels of deans and chairs.
Bartter: We certainly have a history here of patterns and assumptions that influence how we do things.
Macauley: Our culture seems to be that the president is supposed to communicate things to us.
Robinson: We have never even had a discussion like this before; this is interesting!
Misale: Past administrative evaluations were pretty useless, but they are getting better now.
Reschly: Most of our discussion has been top-down; we need to look at how faculty voice can flow from the bottom up. There are people who serve in faculty governance for a very long time and think they speak for everyone, but they don’t.
Johnson: The problem is that people don’t want to step up and take positions in Faculty Senate, so the same people stay there.
4. Curriculum reform. We planned to address this but had time to discuss it only in the context of governance.
5. Adjournment, 6:50 PM
Respectfully submitted by Marc Becker, secretary